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March 14, 2007

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                                 Key West, Florida

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Key West has a laid-back atmosphere and the folks here are very tolerant. No wonder so many writers, artists, musicians and gays call this place home. But as prices get higher and higher, and Key West gets more and more commercialized (thereís now a Banana Republic and Coach store), the locals are slowly beginning to flee. Therefore, if I were you, I would hurry up and come down here before it loses its charm and personality. Donít get me wrong: there are still plenty of mom and pop shops, art galleries, an eclectic range of bars, restaurants, ice cream parlors, Key Lime pie shops and museums. And there will always be plenty to see and do. For starters walk down Duval Street, which I probably donít need to tell you about, since itís the heart and soul of Key West. Its look and feel reminded me of Bourbon Street in New Orleans, including the Go Cups and stores selling party beads.

Sharon Wells (305-294-0566, is a Key West historian, has lived here for 31 years and offers a variety of private Key West tours. She toured me around some of the local museums, which was a great introduction to the island. Her two-hour tour costs $40 per person and a minimum of four people are required.

Next door to the Westin is The Custom House which is home to the Key West Museum of Art & History. It was built in 1891 with over 900,000 bricks. It has served as a custom house, post office and courthouse. It was in this building that the U.S. decided to go to war with Spain in 1898 after the sinking of the battleship USS Maine. It recently underwent a 9-year, $9 million restoration, turning this big red brick building into a museum. It devotes an entire section to Ernest Hemingway's life in Key West, including his bloodstained WWI uniform and rotating art exhibits. Open every day from 9 am to 5 pm. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children (children under 6 are free), $9 for seniors (62+), AAA travelers, and locals with ID. The Key West Museum of Art & History in the Custom House, 281 Front Street, Key West, Florida; Tel.: 305-295-6616.

The Heritage House Museum is in a Caribbean colonial-style home with original furnishings belonging to the Porters, a notable Key West family. They collected antiques and sea-faring artifacts which are all on display. The tour ends in a romantic flowering garden where the Robert Frost cottage is located and recordings of his poetry can be heard. They also host poetry festivals, writers' workshops, lectures and cultural events. Hours: 10am to 4pm daily (closed Sunday). Heritage House, 410 Caroline St., tel. 305-296-3573. $7 guided tour, $5 self-guided.

One of the most popular attractions in Key West is the Ernest Hemingway home and museum. Ernest Hemingway lived in this Spanish colonial-style home here in the heart of Old Town for more than 10 years. The place is usually packed with tourists (and more than 60 cats!) and the best time to tour is as soon as they open, before the cruise ship passengers invade the place. They have free, 30-minute tours through his old rooms and gardens showing you so much, including a 1934 penny that Hemingway pushed into the wet cement where his pool was being built and announced jokingly, "Here, take the last penny I've got!" because it cost $20,000 to build. Open daily from 9am to 5pm. Admission is $11. Hemingway Home, 907 Whitehead St.; tel. 305-294-1575.

Across the street from Hemingwayís house is the Key West Lighthouse and Keeper's Quarters Museum. Built in 1847, the tower is 86 feet tall and has an 88-step circular iron stairway to the observation deck. The views from the top are spectacular! In 1998, the lighthouse became a National Historic Landmark and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Open daily from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children (children under 6 are free) and students with ID, $9 for Seniors (62+), AAA travelers and locals with ID. The Key West Lighthouse and Keeper's Quarters Museum, 938 Whitehead Street, Key West, Florida; tel.: 305-295-6616 Ext. 16.

Of all the museums I visited, my favorite was The Harry S. Truman Little White House. It was built in 1890 as the first officer's quarters on the naval station. At the beginning of the 20th century, it was converted into a single family home and Thomas Edison lived here during World War I, while developing weapons for the Navy. It became very famous in 1946 when Harry Truman began visiting Key West for vacation and then returned 10 more times during his presidency (he spent a total of 175 days). He turned this place into a Little White House. Six presidents have visited here including John Kennedy; the last was Bill Clinton. Today itís mostly used as a museum but the last significant role it had was in April, 2001, when Secretary of State Colin Powell led a week of international peace talks between the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan here. I loved seeing the 1950s furniture and all the Christmas cards the White House has sent out each year. Entrance fee is $11. Little White House, 111 Front St.; tel.: 205-294-9911.

As you can imagine, Key West offers lots of food and restaurant options for all budgets, including their most popular restaurants, Hard Rock Cafť, Jimmy Buffetís Margaritaville and Cheeseburger In Paradise. However, my two favorite places to eat were: Blue Heaven and Pisces. Blue Heaven embodies Key Westís artsy, kick-back attitude. The backyard dining area is filled with colorful, hand-painted picnic tables and chickens running around. I had the Jamaican Jerk Chicken plate with brown rice, black beans, vegetables and corn bread; it was good but their key lime pie was awesome! Blue Heaven Restaurant, 729 Thomas St., Key West, FL; tel.: 305.296.8666.

Pisces used to be a French restaurant called Cafť Des Artistes. But in 2002, the chef decided to remodel the 1892 building Ė by putting up colorful paintings including original signed colorized prints of Andy Warholís artwork and changing the name. Their signature dish for over 15 years (and award-winning, too!) is the Lobster Tango Mango Ė itís delicious! Other tasty dishes are the Yellowtail Atocha, Raspberry Duck and Filet Mignon. Pisces, 1007 Simonton Street, Key West, FL; tel.: 305.294.7100.

Want to escape the Spring Break party atmosphere? Then head to Virgilioís Martini bar. Itís got great, live Cuban music and is filled mostly with locals all over the age of 30. The entrance is on a side street just off of Duval Street. Virgilioís, 524 Duval St, Key West, Fl; tel.: 305-296-8118.

In Key West, there are tons of water sport options. From snorkeling, diving and parasailing to windsurfing, boating and fishing. You name it! I spent a couple hours going up to 65/mph on a Sea Doo. You probably know it as a Jet Ski but please donít call these mini boats a Jet Ski! I grew up on a Jet Ski, which is how I got my nickname Johnny Jet (I used to be known as Johnny JetSki but when I upgraded my mode of transportation I dropped the "ski"). Island Water Sports & Sea Doo Rentals(245 Front Street, tel.: 305-296-1754) offer a variety of options. I went on a Sea Doo Island tour, which takes between 1-1/2 to 2 hours. You travel 26 miles, which takes you through both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Donít worry about getting hurt because theyíre really serious about safety and they require each Sea Doo to stay about 300 feet apart from each other (except when the group convenes at designated points along the way for a brief description of the area, by the tour guide). If you are in the back you might feel lonely. It costs $125 per person and if you want to add a passenger to your backseat, itís just $10 more. This activity is for people 18 and over. Be sure to bring your ID and credit card Ė youíre required to give a $300 deposit.

Hereís a 2-minute Johnny Jet Video of my trip to Key West. It's also on YouTube, so it takes only a few seconds to load (though the quality is not as crisp). We also have all the Johnny Jet Videos ever made on their servers.

Next week we travel back to L.A. and then head to an international destination thatís famous for its weather and ruins.

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Happy Travels,
Johnny Jet

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Note: This trip was sponsored by Ocean Properties.

Copyright 2007 JohnnyJet, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Pictures From

The Trip


Duval Street


Conch Train Tour


Tour Guide


Custom House


Heritage House


Hemingway Home


Key West Lighthouse


88-step Stairway


Little White House


Inside White House


Key Lime Pie


Pisces Restaurant


Lobster Mango Tango


Sea Doos




Next Week

  • I love your site and enjoy the trips you show and the tips I get from you. Margaret Fuquea - Alameda, CA

  • I want to compliment you on your great website. I work in the travel industry and really appreciate it. I enjoy several of your videos and was wondering if you would be able to tell me the name of the music that is being played on the Morocco video that is on the home page? I am going to Morocco in a few weeks and was going to try to find it if it is Moroccan. Kathleen K - Fall River, MA. REPLY: Thanks for the kudos! The song is Dream Machine by Sean Hayes (itís not Moroccan).

  • Hi JohnnyJet: Your newsletter from Morocco was great, especially about Fez. I find I want to go there but it is not likely to happen. The video clip from Fez moved too quickly (I don't have ADD but sometimes wish I did) for me to catch everything. I'd like to go to the medina there. However, you didn't mention if there are snake charmers there as in Marrakech. My cruise ship is stopping at Casablanca but I am thinking of staying on the ship because of your experience with snake charmers. I am terrified of any snake, big or small, poisonous or non-poisonous, and suspect I would go into cardiac arrest is someone approached me, let alone try to put one around my neck. I am not joking or exaggerating. Do you think there is any way of touring Casablanca without encountering snakes? Keep up the good life. I have no idea how you maintain that pace, ADD or not. Cheers, Sandra S -- Owen Sound, Canada REPLY: Thanks for the kind words and you would be making a HUGE mistake not getting off the ship. First of all, I didnít see any snake charmers in Casablanca Ė just Marrakech and they were only in one spot during the day. They wonít come up to you unless you are in a 100 foot radius and there is plenty of room to stay away. Donít worry! Trust me on this. REPLY FROM SANDRA: Thanks for the quick reply to my email and the reassurance I won't be accosted by snake charmers in Casablanca. I knew it would be a crime/sin not to visit Morocco but fear was overruling cognition. I will venture forth!

  • Hi Johnny and Whitney - I love your emails, and wanted to get some ideas of how we can promote hostels in general, the Anchorage Hostel in particular. (Formerly a member of national, but they dropped out to become part of Alaska Hostels). Are you familiar with Hostelling International? Do you care? Well, the national group is promoting having an USPS postage stamp named honoring the 100th anniversary of hostels, in 2009. Anyhow, we have local programs to aid the traveler, and everything is low cost, or no-cost. . . I posted a page on the Alaska Council on my personal homepage - -- they link to me from the national page. Anyhow, any promos you can give me will be most welcomed. btw, there are NO members of the national Hostelling International (formerly called American Youth Hostels) but my mentor of good hostels are the two in San Diego -- that's closer to you anyhow... they have a great, active group there. Vera Crews Ė Anchorage, AK

  • Good story, good pics....makes me want to be there. Next lifetime. TG - Toronto, Ontario, Canada...not exactly the surfing capital of the world, but...we have two goofy guys who surf Ashbridges Bay 3 or 4 times a year when the wind blows up from the SouthEast (usually after a hurricane) and are regulars at a few Lake Erie breaks. So it goes.

  • Iím so jealous reading the article on Allyís trip to OZ. The arts factory was one stop I didnít make it to. On my list of places, however only so much one can get to in a month. The weather wasnít the best rain-sun/rain-sun, through out the month so I found myself changing my itinerary a lot. But I cant wait to go back. Debbie H Ė Connecticut

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